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Is Your Boss Spying on You at Work?

Topics: Work Culture

It’s not an uncommon thing for writers to incite the fear of an impeding Orwellian society in their audience — Big Brother’s watching, the NSA is spying, Trump’s trumping. But how many of us actually consider the day-to-day ways in which technology has double-crossed our assumed standards of privacy? Back in the day, it has been reported, Bill Gates was able to memorize his employees’ license plate numbers to monitor when they came and went. But is such cranial legwork necessary when we’ve got the internet? Get ready to hit CMD + H: your boss may be watching you.

spying boss

(Photo Credit: Ryan McGuire/Gratisography)

It might be unfair to go as far as to say your boss is “spying,” but “keeping close tabs on your activity by arguably unscrupulous means” sort of hits the mark. After reading about Bill Gates’s admittedly weird behavior back in the day, I went ahead and looked up some of the ways bosses can “check up on” what their employees are doing during business hours.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

We’ll leave you to decide if it’s weird or not.

Web and Email Monitoring

This is the one you probably already guessed was happening. According to a study reported on by PC World, more than 60 percent of companies track what sites you visit, and 52 percent scan your emails.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise, since even the “Incognito” tab on Chrome warns against this happening — but it’s probably easy to forget.

If you’re spending a lot of your day browsing Reddit on the company computer, here’s some new information: your boss likely knows about it. I guess that gives NSFW a whole extra layer of meaning.

Keystroke Monitoring

Now, it’s one thing if my boss knows I spend a lot of time looking at those visual recipe GIFs on Facebook, but it’s a whole creepier conversation when she knows that I was also typing out a message to my friend about how great that GIF was, and how excited I am to try the recipe on my big date on Friday night.

Why? Because I never sent the message, I just typed it out and then had to go do something else before I could ever hit send. As The Week makes note, at least 45 percent of surveyed employers log keystrokes — they know what you’re typing. That could be badmouthing the boss, spilling out secrets, or just talking about something personal that maybe could have waited until after you clocked out.

While we’re at it: it’s worth noting that Facebook does this, too. Doesn’t matter if you never hit submit: as Slate points out, they still know what you wrote — categorizing it under what they call “self-censorship.”

(Company) Phone Tracking

This won’t necessarily be a popular mode of company spying — er, corporate espionage — but its implications are still scary. Think you’re able to duck out early without the boss knowing? Sure, they may be caught up in a meeting and not notice you slide out at 4:30 on the occasional Wednesday. But if you’ve got a company phone it’s a whole different story.

Popular Mechanics reported on the story of an employee at a construction company in New York who regularly left work early, and was subsequently fired. The trouble is that the only way his bosses were able to find out was through tracking his location via the company phone he had been given. They could tell he was leaving the job site well before clock-out time on a regular basis.

If you’ve got a company phone, there’s a chance a nosy boss is following your near-every step.

Tell Us What You Think

Is this all just the musings of a punk kid who needs to get back to work and stop obsessing over outdated dystopian novels? Does this writer look up too much to Edward Snowden? Is your company spying on you? We want to hear your stories and suspicions. Leave a comment below or join the conversation on Twitter!

Peter Swanson
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Did you even read any of the articles you linked? I admit, I am an IT engineer and it’s my job to implement the systems you’re worried about. However I have some news you may not like. You’re not interesting. I have a hundred things I have to do on a daily basis, from projects to basic administration. No one is looking at your email, but we do have to make sure you aren’t sending out information that could damage… Read more »

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